Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Berry And Film Incentives: What's The Plot? Mayor In Back Of Theatre, Plus: Schmitt As Dem Wedge Issue, And: Stay Of Execution For Thaddeus 

When it comes to the bombastic debate over the state's movie incentives, the 11th floor of ABQ City Hall is like a silent film--the bodies are moving around, but there's no sound.

That's because GOP Mayor RJ Berry has the bright stage lights of La Politica pointed in his eyes as new GOP Governor Susana Martinez fights to reduce by 40% the amount of tax rebate money going to Hollywood to entice film and TV productions here.

Film production has been one of the few bright spots for the city's economy, with Berry an enthusiastic supporter. Shortly after winning election in October 2009, he exclaimed:

Let's get those incentives going and show them that Albuquerque is open for the film business.

And in announcing an economic plan in March of 2010, the mayor's web site said:

The mayor has instructed his economic team to continue targeting businesses that are a good fit for Albuquerque such as clean and renewable energy, manufacturing, tourism and film.

So does Berry retain his enthusiasm for the current incentive--a tax rebate of 25% that Martinez is trying to reduce to 15%?

We don't know because he has apparently not been asked. The city film office headed up by Ann Lerner is also giving the controversial issue the silent treatment, although she was effusive in her praise of the current incentive program when she gave this interview a year ago.

We can't find any similar statements of support from Lerner since Martinez announced her proposal to cut back on the incentives.

And then there was the blockbuster December announcement that the high-budget and probable smash hit "The Avengers" would film in Albuquerque, bringing millions in economic activity. Berry was all smiles for that:

We welcome The Avengers to Albuquerque and look forward to hosting Marvel Studios over the coming year, Clearly, Albuquerque remains a premiere city in the U.S. for production...

ABQ Studios, despite past financial issues, is now a significant player in attracting productions. If "The Avengers" producers stay with ABQ, the studios will be entirely booked for most of the year. That's a lot of cash coming into the city.


So is Berry going to join the film incentive fight or sit it out and watch it from the theatre seats?

If he does nothing and the film industry takes a hit from reduced incentives, it could be a major economic blow to the city and to Berry's political future. If he opposes the reduction, he could inflame Martinez and the conservative wing of his party gunning for the program. Of course, if nothing happens and the program remains the same there would be little fallout for Berry.

But hope is not a leadership plan. What he could do is try to foster a compromise by trying to get Martinez to bump up the 15% incentive to 20% or so.

The question before Berry is whether he is going to let Santa Fe alone set the economic agenda for this city, or whether he demands a seat at the table in determining how important the film production business should be here.


The next mayoral election is way out there--not until October 2013. But that hasn't stopped an early list of possible contenders from circulating. It includes Berry, Dem ABQ City Councilor Ken Sanchez, Dem ABQ State Senator Tim Keller and Dem Pete Dinelli, an attorney who was head of public safety under former Mayor Chavez. We have not heard of any possible Republican mayoral candidates other than Berry. In October of this year four city council seats are up for election.


Machinations continue over the fate of Bernalillo County Manager Thaddeus Lucero. The five member county commission met Tuesday, but postponed a decision on removing Lucero. They will meet again Friday. There is talk that Lucero will resign rather than face a vote that the Alligators said is poised to go 3 to 2 against him. A resignation would spare Lucero a black mark. His supporters turned out in force at the meeting yesterday.


Can Jack Schmitt be the Dems answer to the many "wedge" issues the R's are throwing at them this legislative session?

The former moonwalker and GOP US Senator and now Gov. Martinez's nominee to head the state energy and minerals department, is an avowed global warming denier and has written a variety of missives on public policy that would have Timothy Leary tripping.

Schmitt's confirmation hearing could be a sold out event as Dems highlight his fringe views. The Journal's Thom Cole laid them out recently in a column that the Dems will use as a crib sheet when the time comes. (Nothing is scheduled yet.)

But expect Schmitt to make it through a Senate Rules Committee confirmation hearing and then the full Senate. His presence in the post will be a boon to Dems here and nationally as they point to him as a reason why they need campaign money. You could also see the ex-astronaut pop up in TV and radio spots. Before his time is up, Jack might feel like he is running for the Senate again.

And another political gadfly--Dona Ana Dem Rep. Andy Nunez, who helped spearhead a botched coup against House Speaker Ben Lujan--now says he is going to change his party registration to decline-to-state, better known as "independent." We've already pointed out there is a "functional coalition" in the House in which only a handful of Dems have to join with the R's to pass bills. The Nunez switch doesn't alter the balance of power as his vote is one of those considered to be part of the conservative functional coalition.

If Nunez decides to run again in 2012, will he run as an independent or will he switch back to one of the major parties? Who knows? Andy is about as predictable as the Groundhog coming your way Feb 2.


A reader writes from Carlsbad:

Senator Tom Udall opened an office here in Carlsbad. If my memory is correct, it is the first of its kind in Carlsbad. What struck me as funny was the people who were there to greet him. Most of them won't vote for Tom but we here are used to the Hipocresia Politica. Little Texas is alive and well...


Talk about close. No one in this generation of politicos has ever dealt with state House committees that are equally divided between Dem's and R's. But some are as a result of the House now having 37 Dems and 33 R's. Here's the breakdown from the Roundhouse:

Agricultural and Water: 5Ds 5Rs; Appropriations: 10Ds 8Rs; Business and Industry: 6Ds 6Rs; Consumer and Public Affairs: 3Ds 2Rs; Education: 6Ds 5Rs; Energy and Natural Resources: 6Ds 6Rs; Health and Government Affairs: 4Ds 4Rs; Judiciary: 8Ds 7Rs; Labor and Human Resources: 5Ds 4Rs; Taxation and Revenue: 8Ds 7Rs; Transportation and Public Works: 6Ds 6Rs;Voters and Elections: 7Ds 6Rs

Speaker Lujan made sure the really important committees like appropriations retained their Dem edge. For committees with equal numbers of Dems and R's, you are going to need some compromise to approve a bill because bills die on a tie vote.


New Mexico mothers are being told they must be more involved in the education of their children, if the state is to pull itself out of the performance pits. Can they get some tips from Chinese mothers? What do they do that has their children outperforming with the school books? Well, a lot.

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